Comment of the Day: What the Former Heights Post Office Spot Won’t Turn Into

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT THE FORMER HEIGHTS POST OFFICE SPOT WON’T TURN INTO Renderings of Heights Central Station shopping center, Yale at 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008“11th St. is a thoroughfare. So is Yale St. . . . There is no street parking in that area. That really nice old town feel of 20th St. (19th?) is not something you can replicate here — that is a shopping/ restaurant district with grandfathered-in diagonal parking spaces and a road wide enough to accommodate it. If you want another town-center-type development, someone will have to build it (and acquire a lot more property than this space here). Typically, those historical main streets can’t be artificially manufactured. Just appreciate the one you have and be happy they didn’t build a 500-bed apartment complex next to your house.” [Commenter7, commenting on A Peek at What’s Up Next Once the Former Heights Post Office Comes Down] Rendering of planned Heights Central Station shopping center: MFT Interests

8 Comment

  • This is nonsensical. There is zero-setback retail JUST DOWN THE STREET on 11th. It may be a “thoroughfare,” but the world is full of zero-setback retail on four-lane roads. Greenville Avenue in Dallas is a thoroughfare in the same type of neighborhood (M-Streets) but has plenty of zero-setback retail, and there’s a thriving bar and restaurant scene there. South Congress, Lamar Blvd, and Guadalupe in Austin are thoroughfares full of zero-setback retail. Hell, Washington Avenue here in Houston is a thoroughfare with zero-setback retail, and used to have more before they tore it down in the 90’s.

    Sorry to throw all these facts at you, but you don’t need a Woodlands-style town center to build quality walkable retail, you just need people with enough vision to make it happen. And you need to stop making excuses for building crap.

  • “Typically, those historical main streets can’t be artificially manufactured”
    Apparently street facing retail was left behind when the glaciers receded and can never be re-created.
    CoH ruined the streetscape by imposing 25-ft setbacks. It’d be nice if we could start un-ruining it one block at a time.

  • You don’t need diagonal spaces for walkable urbanism, you just need a ton of parallel spots. For the 11th/Yale site, there’s room for eight parallel spots along Yale and nine along 11th, which could be bumped to twelve if you relo the METRO stop to the far side of 11th @ Heights. So that’s *twenty* parking spots on-street.
    Add in a row of rear parking + loading docks between Yale and Heights and what you’ve got left is a solid 100’x300′ commercial block with continuous frontage on 11th. Easy, simple, walkable, attractive, completely verboten under current parking regs.

  • What is it about a setback that keeps someone from walking to it? Just that walkers don’t like the aesthetics of setbacks? There are other ways to make a shopping center pretty. And a lack of setbacks doesn’t necessarily make a shopping center seem attractive–look at the one on W 20th across from Kroger. There is no setback, and it just looks like the back side of businesses. None of them have their front doors on the street; all the front doors face the parking lot in the back (probably because people in Houston drive and enter from the parking lot).

    Streets are for driving. Main streets like Yale should not be turned from four-lane into two-lane streets because developers do not want to use their own land for parking for the businesses that will generate profit for them.

  • heightsresident2, you’re exactly right, it’s about aesthetics. Do you know why property values in the Heights are higher than they are in Gulfton? Aesthetics. Do you know why people love 19th Street but don’t particularly care about 34th Street or Little York? Aesthetics.

    I seriously wonder if Houston is the only city where “aesthetics” isn’t a good enough reason for why one development looks nice and another development looks like crap. Yeah folks, it’s about aesthetics.

  • Never underestimate the amount of keyboard commandos that want to tell you what to do with your property. Shhesh.

  • Last time I was there, Fifth Avenue is New York was a thoroughfare with no street parking yet was fronted by street facing, non-set back retail that seemed to be doing just fine attracting shoppers.
    Closer to home, Austin and Dallas are full of sidewalk facing retail strips along busy roads. Houston’s main problem is the 20′ setback rule that requires a variance by the building department.

  • Shady, the key to making sidewalk-fronting retail work is to have people on the sidewalk. In New York City, there’s a ton of people on the sidewalk because they’re walking from the subway, trains, bus terminal to their destination. In Houston, we don’t have that. But we *can* generate sidewalk traffic by having everyone park their cars on the street and walk a block to their destination. In doing so, they patronize other businesses, and they create a street life, so that even more people want to walk there.
    Now, if you can convince a whole bunch of people to use transit/bikeshare/Uber, maybe at some point you can delete the curb spots and still have decent sidewalk activity. But you can’t just will this situation into existence. Many a low-density burgh has tried, and what they end up with is a fake entrance on the street that no one uses while the entire business is oriented towards the “rear” entrance, which is where the parking, and thus the customers are.